From politics to MLS® statistics

Last week’s column referred to REALTOR® political action activity in the country. This was timely, since the Manitoba Political Action Committee had their first opportunity to see our new prime minister who spoke in Winnipeg last week. The committee also had a constructive meeting with the Manitoba Liberal Caucus during which they went over important REALTOR® issues of national significance. 

There certainly has been much discussion about the West having a larger voice at the national level because of the election of a Conservative government with a strong constituency in Western Canada, including the Prime Minister’s riding in Calgary. 

Besides the three key issues in last week’s column, CREA has also been stressing to the federal government the need for a formal federal housing policy framework that addresses five priorities (sound familiar?). They include homelessness, transformative change for aboriginal housing, better use of existing housing stock (e.g., stronger support and funding for the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program), new options for homeownership among low-income earners, and tax and regulatory changes to address contemporary issues such as secondary suites.

The accompanying article from the Canadian Real Estate Association  refers to MLS® records being set nationally and points to the Western provinces as having the most pronounced sales and average price increases.

While Winnipeg was not singled out, as it has been in previous CREA MLS® market stories, it is worth mentioning that the Winnipeg Real Estate Board’s first quarter results were impressive. They surpassed the board’s previous best for the first-quarter with over 2,350 MLS® sales. In 1992, there were 2,350 sales, during a year when various housing-oriented programs were started, such as the five-per-cent down payment program through CMHC and the CREA-led Home Buyers’ Plan, which has resulted in millions of Canadians being able to take money from their RRSPs and apply those funds to a home down payment. 

Dollar volume again is at a record-breaking level with nearly $350 million transactions in the first three months of this year. The best previous dollar volume was last year with $288 million in sales activity. 

At the end of this first quarter, properties on average were selling in just over three weeks and the entire existing inventory was only on the market for less than two months. 

The average residential-detached house price is at its highest-ever first-quarter average of $155,000. Nearly 40 per cent of all homes in the first quarter sold for over list price. This is another all-time high for the local MLS®.

Other markets are setting records too, according to CREA. But before presenting the national picture, it is worthwhile to do a quick snapshot of another MLS® market not yet covered in the CREA article. Edmonton for the first time sold over $1 billion worth of real estate in its first quarter. The record was set on March 21 with sales of 4,607 units worth $1.004 billion. Last year, the $1 billion level was not reached until April 19. 

Similar market forces are at work in Edmonton as in Winnipeg. MLS® listings are attracting multiple offers. The strong demand for housing combined with low inventory has meant homes are selling on average within Edmonton in just 19 days, a record time — the best previous low days on market was April 2002 when homes turned over in only 25 days. The average MLS® house price in Edmonton reached a new high of $220,000 in March.

In Edmonton and Winnipeg, where demand is unprecedented, REALTORS® are paying close attention to the up-to-the-minute pricing data that MLS® provides in order to advise their clients. 

The following is the CREA article:

MLS® records set nationally

A variety of national and regional MLS® statistical records were set in March, according to the CREAStat report prepared by the Canadian Real Estate Association. 

Records were set for number of units sold through MLS® during the month of March, and records were set for the value of properties sold. The national average for a single-family detached home also set a record in March at $289,639. That represents an 11 per cent increase year-over-year, fueled by record average prices in nine major markets across Canada. 

The CREA report also shows that with seasonally adjusted data, home sales via the Multiple Listing Service® in Canada’s major markets reached 86,861 units in the first quarter of the year, the highest level for quarterly sales on record. The previous record was set in the third quarter of 2005. Quarterly records were also set for the value of MLS® sales in any quarter. 

CREA’s major market CREAStat report will be released in mid-April. 

“The incredible sales level of the first quarter is a graphic demonstration of the professional capability of Calgary REALTORS®, showing their ability to provide purchasing opportunities for such a high number of Calgarians, under challenging circumstances,” said Calgary Real Estate Board president Kevin Clark. 

Only the record for number of new listings remained intact through the first quarter of the year. There were 46,265 new listings posted on the MLS® systems of boards and associations in March, up slightly from February and the highest since May of 1991. 

In Calgary, the CREB reported a 5.2 per cent decline in new listings compared to March 2005. 

“There is a lot to be positive about in the Toronto market,” said Toronto Real Estate Board president John Meehan, as the board reported record first quarter sales. “The year has started very strongly and it shows no signs of slowing as the peak spring market approaches. There are strong fundamentals in place and we are seeing that translate into steady performances month after month. It is still a great time to be in the market.” 

The national MLS® statistics were fueled by record-setting sales in the Western provinces, especially Alberta. The year-over-year increase of the average residential price hit 30 per cent in Calgary, the biggest increase in the country. The average price in Victoria was up 22.9 per cent compared to March 2005; in the greater Vancouver area the average price increased 16.9 per cent.